The Lost Abbey - Inferno Ale

The Lost Abbey - Inferno Ale

Beer Club featured in Rare Beer Club

Style:

Golden Belgian-style strong ale

Country:

United States

Alcohol by Volume:

8.0%

The Lost Abbey - Inferno Ale

  • Alcohol by Volume: 8.0%
  • Bottle Size: No

As a rather gruesome and gloomy introduction to this month’s feature beer, let’s start off with the text that southern California brewing hero Tomme Arthur crafted for this brand new beer’s back label:

Corruption, Greed and Lust. They’re all represented on the hooks today. Tomorrow, they’ll be stringing Gluttony, Desire and Sloth. Go ahead. Tell yourself you’re better than all of them. But you can’t. Hell can be funny like that. Down here it’s all just sin. Everyone here is screwed just like you. They don’t care who you sliced, diced or cheated. No one is escaping this heinous place.

You’re roommate is an ax murderer. Eerily, he’s not threatening. How can he be? Here, the Fallen Angel owns your body, mind and soul. As such, no one can take your life. It’s already been taken. Or was it given? Neither matters. Did you seriously think you were living a virtuous life? At least Satan serves beer in Hell. He brews it himself right there in that flame stoked cauldron. Rumor has it the beer is straw yellow, bone dry and simply labeled Inferno.

While certainly a bit of a departure in terms of the story content for a brewer who has spent the last few years developing a sophisticated line of farmhouse and Monastic-style beers with much gentler names like Devotion, Red Barn, and Lost & Found Abbey ales, perhaps Tomme has a darker side that has only recently surfaced. Or – and it would be comforting to think that this is the case – maybe it’s just that a golden Belgian-style strong ale in the mold of Duvel, with an alcohol content of 8%, fills a hole in the Lost Abbey range that Tomme has wanted to plug since opening the new brewery.

Tomme started brewing professionally in the San Diego area in 1996, and in 12 short years (all but one of those with founder Vince Marsaglia and the Pizza Port team) has become the personification of an American cult brewer. Vince chuckles when he recalls the first time that he overheard fellow elevator riders bragging that they actually “saw Tomme Arthur” at the Great American Beer Festival several years ago. But while his beer world stardom is well-deserved, indeed, he asks for little more on a day-to-day basis than a few minutes to wolf down some takeout teriyaki for lunch between hosing out tanks, shoveling hops, and greeting unexpected tourists who show up and would like to taste a few beers, because they heard that some serious ones are being made in an industrial park in suburban San Marcos.

I first heard Michael Jackson use a term that he fancied, “celebrity brewer”, when he referred to Tomme while tasting some Rare Beer Club features at London’s White Horse Pub at Parson’s Green in 2004. Being in the world famous British tavern, sharing a snifter of Cuvee de Tomme with the Beer Hunter and White Horse publican (at the time) Mark Dorber - who is generally considered to be the most knowledgeable beer cellarman in the world - was a bit of a celebrity overload experience as it was. But the conversation centered on Tomme’s ability to produce outstanding beers, with creative and complex profiles and incredible interplays of flavors. If Vince had been there to hear that one, the elevator exchange would have seemed pretty unexciting.

The experience of watching Lost Abbey brew remarkable beers and grow based on a fanatical consumer demand is awfully exciting to watch, however. Three new tanks were installed last week, a new bottling line is in the works, and the sophisticated barrel beer program is now up to 300 casks that previously nurtured whiskey and wine. And the upcoming release of the collaborative brewers’ project, Isabel Proximus beer, will kick off at Lost Abbey during the week of the Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Championships in San Diego this month.

As for the Inferno, it’s a truly wonderful example of a classic Belgian style. Though pale yellow-golden in color, the appearance – like the alcohol content – is devilishly deceiving. A floral and herbaceous nose of hops and yeast are a welcoming invitation to take a sip; flavors are at once malty-sugary and dry (there’s that complex interplay); some citrus, spiciness, and crisp fruitiness make it a dangerously drinkable quencher, and a great companion for grilled fish, or a shellfish pasta with as much garlic as you like. The Wicked One won’t care much about your breath.

Though pale yellow-golden in color, the appearance – like the alcohol content – is devilishly deceiving. A floral and herbaceous nose of hops and yeast are a welcoming invitation to take a sip; flavors are at once malty-sugary and dry (there’s that complex interplay); some citrus, spiciness, and crisp fruitiness make it a dangerously drinkable quencher, and a great companion for grilled fish, or a shellfish pasta with as much garlic as you like.

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